Library Blog

Ode to Libraries

Friday, April 17, 2020

I've been touched by all your emails and messages over the past month and want to let you know that the staff and I are as eager as you are to get back to 53 East 79th Street.

It's National Library Week (April 19 -25), and most libraries across the country, including ours, will be celebrating virtually this year. The theme, "Find Your Place at the Library," was chosen months ago, before most of us were forced to close our buildings due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So the American Libraries Association has turned the theme around to reflect our new reality, asking library patrons to "Find the Library at Your Place." We certainly hope that while we are closed, you are exploring all of our programs and services that are available remotely, from e-books and digital magazines to reference materials and online events. Sara Holliday, our Head of Events, provided a handy rundown of your virtual NYSL in this blog post. And as always, our staff is available to help should you have any questions during this time. Please reach out, even if it's just to say hello.

One of the emails I received since we were forced to close the building was from longtime member Ellen Feldman, who shared a beautiful ode to libraries that she had recently written. She was gracious enough to allow me to share it with all of you. 

Though I am fond of bookshops, I am in thrall to libraries. In bookstores, I browse. In libraries, I lose myself. Bookstores tend to offer a view of the current scene. Libraries are time travel machines to other eras. Bookstores smell crisp, with, these days, a dash of exotically flavored coffee. Libraries are a tad musty with a whiff of nostalgia and a soupçon of coziness.

From the down-on-its-heels house-turned-neighborhood-library of my childhood through the gothic haven of my college years to the monumental resources and architecture of the New York Public Library and the unique charm and collection of the New York Society Library where I do most of my research and writing, I have spent a good deal of my life in libraries – and with librarians, the true romantic heroes of our age. They aren’t famous for being famous. They haven’t invented an app to do something no one wanted to do in the first place. They are underpaid, undervalued, and often undermined. Yet in the face of all that, they retain their passion for books and their generosity to those who read them.

Ellen Feldman's latest book, Paris Never Leaves You, will be released in August from St. Martin's Press.  


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